“Are we there yet?”
One of the most common questions in the human experience. I hear it from the back seat on long car trips. Ministers hear it from catechumens. It’s not a bad question, really. We feel secure with a sense of perspective: where we are, what direction we’re heading, and how long it will take to get there.
RCIA doesn’t give you a solid answer, and if your parish has programmed a catechumenate to begin in the Fall and end the subsequent Easter, it’s not doing anyone any favors. Let’s read:
76. The duration of the catechumenate will depend on the grace of God and on various circumstances, such as the program of instruction for the catechumenate, the number of catechists, deacons, and priests, the cooperation of the individual catechumens, the means necessary for them to come to the site of the catechumenate and spend time there, the help of the local community. Nothing, therefore, can be settled a priori.
The time spent in the catechumenate should be long enough–several years if necessary–for the conversion and faith of the catechumens to become strong. By their formation in the entire Christian life and a sufficiently prolonged probation the catechumens are properly initiated into the mysteries of salvation and the practice of an evangelical way of life. By means of sacred rites celebrated at successive times they are led into the life of faith, worship, and charity belonging to the people of God.
The goal is more than conversion and faith. The rite suggests the initial faith of a catechumen must be “strong” before the person can be properly baptized. How do we know? Do you find it interesting that catechumens are expected to live an “evangelical way of life?” I have to admit I had not noticed that bit before today. One sign of a catechumen ready for baptism would be their involvement in bringing other believers to the Church. Or at minimum, living a life that would attract other believers.
Notice the importance–again–of liturgy in the formation of catechumens. There is a long stretch of time between the Rite of Acceptance and the Rite of Election. Are these days and weeks filled with liturgies of the word and other rites as designated in the RCIA? Or do parishes rely on the Sunday readings at Mass?